These small German porcelain dolls were a popular children's bath toy due to their ability to float. They were also fairly cheap, often costing only one penny each. But when immigrants brought these toys to the United States in the mid 1800's, they were quickly linked to a rather morbid tale...
Seba Smith, a writer from Main, was said to have come across a newspaper story that told the sad tale of a young woman who froze to death while riding in a carriage to a ball. Smith felt inspired, and produced a poem titled A Corpse Going to a Ball. This poem tells a similar story of a young woman, Charlotte, who refused to wear a blanket over her fine clothes while riding to a ball. After arriving, her beau found her frozen to death. Below is a portion of the poem from an old printing, you can read the full poem here.
This poem acts as a warning over the dangers of vanity, and teaches youths the importance of listening to their parents. The poem was later set to music and turned into a ballad, gaining more popularity as Americans grew interested in this macabre tale. Around this same time, American families were also coming across the popular white porcelain dolls that were now being prodcued by the millions. As children were playing with them, people began to notice a similarity between Charlotte (from the peom/song) and these stiff white dolls, lending them their new name "Frozen Charlottes". Male versions were also produced, and often referred to as "Charlie", but the Charlottes remained as the more popular of the two.
Today, these small figurines are a popular collectors item for those interested in antiques and the macabre. Frozen Charlottes can be easily found on sites like Etsy, eBay, and often sell for low prices due to the very large quantities that were produced through the 19th and 20th centuries.
Want to learn a little more about these dolls? Check out my source listed below.